Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off: Wrath of the Medusa by T.O. Munro
Wrath of the Medusa by T.O. Munro
This is an excerpt provided by the author for the Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off Competition
“Ride harder,” Niarmit cried. “I see his banner.” The lancers galloped up the centre of the hollow V which weight of enemy numbers had made of Rugan’s lines, towards the point where the Bonegrinder’s standard and the Silver pennant of Medyrsalve fluttered side by side.
“Leave the abomination to me, your Majesty,” Tordil urged at her side, breathing more easily than any of them despite the frantic pace they had sustained. “My kind have some protection against her ilk.”
“The bastard never rode this hard to our aid,” Kaylan’s voice gasped behind her.
“Rugan!” Niarmit screamed. “For Matteus and Gregor we are coming!”
Dema looked up from the doomed prince. She saw a troop of lancers storming towards her, in the lead a woman, red hair trailing, her upraised sword shining in the darkness of the lowering clouds. And in its light her face shone.
The medusa, tilted her head to consider this strange phenomenon for an intake of breath. “It seems, my Prince,” she remarked as though the matter were of no consequence. “That today is not your day to die, nor mine.”
She turned and walked away as the stunned Rugan struggled into a sitting position, grasping at last the boot knife he had been reaching for before. A silver warrior, seeing the medusa’s unguarded back, lunged at her, but alerted by her snakes, she ducked and turned driving her sword into his belly even as his eyes met hers. There was a grating sound as she pulled the steel free of his petrified form and then she was gone. The ranks of the Bonegrinders and the outlanders reformed behind her, puzzled but still ready to withstand and repel this fresh charge of cavalry, even as Rugan staggering to his feet, lunged to retrieve his fallen sword.
Thom could have wept. They had regained the illusory security of the Oostsalve archers but to what purpose. Perched on the southern extremity of the battle, they peppered the nearby orcs with arrows, but to slight effect. The heavily armoured orcs simply raised their shields above them, and for all the pincushion effect of countless arrows the foul humanoids were undaunted indeed barely damaged. While the spears of Oostsalve might hold them at bay, there was no value in securing a watchful stand-off here while the rest of the battle was on the brink of becoming a rout.
“Those zombies are nearly ready to attack,” Hepdida said, glaring at the distant reformed division of undead. “Can we not take our archers against them, keep them from the prince’s lines?”
Quintala shrugged. “You’ve seen how little arrows hurt them, my princess. There’s a thousand Medyrsalve bowmen scattered in pieces on the field, who tried to stop those things with arrows.”
Thom grabbed the half-elf’s arm with sudden force. “We must shoot the shepherds!” he declared. “Get close and shoot the necromancers that drive them.”
Quintala looked down at the hand gripping her arm with improper force, until the illusionist let go with a softer repetition, “we must shoot the shepherds.”
“That would not destroy the undead,” Quintala pointed out. “They would still be desperate to feed, a dangerous foe.”
“But to whom?” Thom urged.
Hepdida caught his meaning. “We must shoot the shepherds. Come Quintala, let the archers remount and ride west. We must shoot the shepherds.”
The half-elf looked from princess to illusionist nodding slowly at their desperate expressions. “We must,” she said at length. “We must shoot the shepherds.” She turned to shout along the line. “Archers mount up, we must shoot the shepherds!”
Kimbolt caught up with Dema as the medusa was remounting her palfrey. The mask was back in place but below its darkened gauze, the left side of her face was entirely red with blood that flowed too freely from a gash in her cheek. “You are wounded,” he cried. “You must seek healing.”
She looked at him, her mouth unbent with any sign of recognition. She shook her head, scattering crimson droplets of blood across her horse’s mane. “It is a scratch, no more it will heal itself.”
Kimbolt pulled a strip of cloth from the kerchief around his neck and held it out to her, but she waved it aside, her mouth hard with irritation or pain. Beyond them the rejuvenated Redfangs and her elite guard were embroiled in a battle with Rugan’s tattered guard which could go only one way, despite the occasional flashes of lilac fire and the guttural screams of immolated orcs.
Dema stood up in her stirrups and strained her eyes to peer into the darkening murk. She scanned the ragged panorama of the battlefield from north to south, satisfied with events right up until she caught movement at the limit of view. “Harpies’ bollocks, what are they doing?”
Kimbolt looked south to where the mounted archers of Oostsalve had ridden within bowshot of the reformed division of undead. “Arrows don’t hurt the creatures,” he remarked. “You’d think they’d have realised that by now. Mind the orcs and the nomads will have to move aside to make room so the zombies can shoulder their way through to Rugan’s lines.”
“Ogre piss,” Dema spat as the first salvo of arrows arced their way across the sky towards the rearmost ranks of the undead legion. “Galen is an arse. He’s given them no protection, no skirmishers to guard their backs.”
“But the zombies don’t need protection.”
“Not the undead, Kimbolt” Dema grabbed his wrist. “The fucking necromancers. They’re unprotected.”